Gov. Pritzker announces plan to expand child care in next phases of Restore Illinois

J.B. Pritzker

FILE – In this April 23, 2020 file photo, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces an extension of the stay at home order for Illinois as well as a mandatory face covering order at his daily Illinois coronavirus update at the Thompson Center. Illinois State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia filed suit against the order, and a judge in southern Illinois ruled Monday, April 27, 2020, that the Illinois governor’s order to stem the spread of the coronavirus exceeds his emergency authority and violates individual civil rights. (Tyler LaRiviere/Chicago Sun-Times via AP File)

CHICAGO (WMBD) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state’s plan for a gradual reopening of child care in Phases 3 and 4 of Restore Illinois on Friday.

The state is implementing a cautious approach that Pritzker said balances the need to greatly expand child care with the need for prudent restrictions that lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

“We can’t have a conversation about going back to work without talking about child care – anything else leaves a large portion of the workforce, especially women who too often bear a disproportionate burden, without any way to move forward while caring for their kids,” Pritzker said. “Illinois must take a cautious approach that appropriately balances the need to greatly expand child care with the need to lessen the risk of spreading the coronavirus.”

Based on the advice of public health experts, the new group size limits will be roughly 30% lower than their pre-pandemic levels for centers. For licensed homes that tend to be smaller, most will be able to operate at standard capacity.

Providers that have been successfully operating as emergency child care providers can move immediately to these new maximum capacities when their region enters Phase 3. Most licensed child care homes will also be able to reopen to their licensed capacity.

As of Friday, there are 105,444 reported coronavirus cases and 4,715 deaths. A total of 697,133 tests have been performed.

There will be no restrictions on which families can use child care in Phases 3 and 4.

The news comes as Pritzker is gradually allowing more businesses and operations to open in Phase 3; earlier this week, the governor said that restaurants and bars can open for outdoor seating when the state enters Phase 3 of the plan on May 29. The state will require tables at outdoor seating to be six feet apart. Gatherings of 10 people or fewer will be permitted.

Additionally, all stores will be allowed to reopen for in-person shopping as long as they provide social distancing safety measures. Foursomes will be allowed for golf, indoor and outdoor tennis facilities will be allowed to open, and all state parks will reopen, with concessions sales allowed too.

Illinois is encouraging all of the currently closed licensed child care providers to reopen when their Region moves to Phase 3 to serve the many families who will be returning to work. Pritzker said those providers that have been closed and will reopen must develop a Reopening Plan that ensures they have revised operational and preparedness policies in place before opening.

These newly reopened providers will have reduced capacity, of no more than 10 children per classroom, for the first 4 weeks. Once they have provided care safely for four weeks and have followed the new health, social distancing, and sanitation routines and guidelines, they will be able to expand to larger group sizes, though not their full licensed capacity.

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